Puppy Care Essentials
Your first trip to the pet store might seem a little overwhelming without a clear conception of what your new puppy needs. Here is a shopping list of puppy essentials:
- Dog Crate
- Harness and Leash
- ID Tags
- Play and Chew Toys
- Brush and Comb
- Shampoo and Waterless Bath
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Stain Remover and Enzyme Deodorizer
- Food and Water Bowls
- Puppy Food
Remember that not all products are created equal, and some may actually harm your puppy instead of helping. So read ingredients and product reviews before you buy, to help ensure the health and safety of your pet.
Puppy-Proofing Your Home
Before you bring your new puppy home, get down on the floor of your living room and take a look around. That is what your puppy will see—and everything your puppy will want to paw at, hide away, or eat! Now is the time to make sure your home is prepared for a dog.
Puppy-proofing your home, and keeping your puppy out of harm’s way, are actually easier than they sound. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Cordon off restricted areas. These may include baby’s room and kitchen. You can use safety gates that are easy to install and to remove when not needed.
- Protect electronics and cords. Puppies love to chew on things, so make sure electrical cords are out of reach or shielded. Provide them with safe alternatives to chew.
- Remove harmful substances. Keep chemicals, plants, rugs, valuables, trash, and breakables out of the reach of your puppy.
- Vacuum and sweep often. This will help prevent your puppy from swallowing items that could make them sick or block their digestive track.
- Check the yard for dangers. Makes sure there are no gaps in your fencing. Also, remove chemicals, poisonous plants, and sharp objects. If you have a swimming pool, ensure it is inaccessible to your puppy.
- Supervise your puppy vigilantly. Confine them to areas where you spend the most time. This way, you’ll be better able to catch them before they “go” in the house, and before they chew something other than their toys.
Look for future Bee Haven blog posts about household dangers, and about plants and people foods that are toxic to dogs. Example: Never allow your dog to eat chocolate!
Basic Health Care
You’ll want to give ongoing consideration to the health of your dog. Veterinarian visits can be expensive, especially when major health issues arise. You can help keep visits to a minimum by following a general health care routine at home. Here are some puppy care basics:
- Toothbrushing. Start training your puppy to accept toothbrushing as early as possible. Use a toothpaste made for dogs. Brush daily to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.
- Bathing. Use warm water with a shampoo made for dogs. Dry as thoroughly as you can with a towel, and allow your dog to finish air drying in a warm room. You can also use a hair dryer set to warm—avoid using a hot hair dryer as this can burn your puppy’s delicate skin.
- Eye cleaning. Use a cotton ball or round to keep the eyes clear of any discharge at all times. A saline solution can be used to cleanse the area under the eye daily, if needed. Apply the solution to the cotton round and wipe gently.
- Ear cleaning. At least once a month, use an ear cleaning solution made for dogs, and follow the instructions. Check the ears weekly for signs of infection: redness, inflammation, or offensive odor. Never insert a cotton swab into your dog’s ear.
- Nail trimming. Long nails can be painful. Use clippers made for dogs. Avoid cutting into the “quick” of the nails, which you can typically see within the nails if the nail is transparent. Black nails can be trickier. We recommend having your vet show you how to safely trim your puppy’s nails.
- Parasite prevention. Your veterinarian can advise you of which flea, tick, and worm preventatives are best for your puppy. These preventive measures will help keep your whole family healthy.
Choose a veterinarian that is close to your home in case of emergencies. Be sure to schedule your puppy’s first visit with your vet within three business days of arriving home.
In addition, continue to follow the doctor’s schedule for puppy exams, vaccinations, and boosters. And keep in mind that, if you’re unable to perform one of the health care basics outlined above, such as nail trims or ear cleaning, your vet may offer those services.
Food and Feeding Times
When choosing a food, remember the adage, “You are what you eat.” That is true for dogs too. A well balanced diet with nutritious ingredients can help your dog live a longer and healthier life.
Here is a summary of the guidelines that follow:
- Choose a food specially formulated for your dog’s age.
- Choose a food designated for the size of your dog’s breed.
- Stay consistent with feeding times.
- Always keep fresh water available.
Puppies have unique nutritional needs. They have higher energy levels than adult dogs; and their skeletal, muscular, and immune systems are still developing. So, their dietary requirements will change as they grow into adulthood. Until that time, select a food that is specially formulated for puppies, or “all life stages.” Never feed a puppy a food formulated for an adult dog.
Also, size matters. Small breed dogs need more calories and have longer digestive tracts (percentage-wise by weight) than larger breeds. So make sure puppy food is made for breeds of your dog’s standard size. Digestibility and the correct complex of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are critical components of a small breed puppy diet.
Feed your puppy at consistent times. The number of times a small breed puppy needs to eat each day depends on age:
- 1 to 4 months: 3 small meals each day
- 5 to 10 months: 2 small meals each day
- Over 10 months: 1 or 2 meals each day, depending on the amount
Finally, make sure your dog always has access to fresh water.
Training and Behavior
Patience, repetition, and praise are the three main ingredients of puppy training. Puppies don’t have bladder or bowel control yet. So the goal of house-breaking is to help your puppy learn, not only where to go, but when. Here is a recipe for teaching your puppy how to “go potty” outside instead of in the house:
- Patience. Remember that there will be accidents at first. Be patient and avoid scolding or punishing your puppy when they happen. Accidents are 99 percent—if not all—the owner’s fault, not the puppy’s!
- Repetition. Take your puppy outside after each meal, water break, play period, and nap; before you go to bed; and when you wake up.
- Supervision. Confine your puppy to where you spend your time so you can watch for signs that puppy needs to go, such as frantic sniffing or circling. If you see such behavior, take puppy outside immediately. If you’re unable to supervise, put your puppy in their crate. Then, when you return, immediately take them outside.
- Repetition. Keep to a routine feeding and potty schedule. Don’t simply wait until you see signs that your puppy needs to go.
- Praise. Be outside with your puppy so you can give them immediate praise and a reward when they go in the designated area.
“What a good girl!” or “That’s a good boy!” are strong words of praise, especially when they are accompanied by petting and a treat. Before you know it, your puppy will learn to go to the door, or to come and get you, when he or she needs to go outside. We also love to employ a potty bell, so they can ring it to alert you when they need to go outside.
To train your puppy not to chew on shoes, socks, furniture, etc., remember the three ingredients: patience, repetition, and praise. When you see puppy start to chew on something off-limits, say a firm “No.” Then immediately replace it with a chew toy. When puppy starts to chew the toy, offer praise.